Category Archives: Music

THE MASTERPLAN

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The problem with writing about subcultures is that if you weren’t there, you don’t know the full story. And even if you participated, everyone’s account has a tendency to differ. In the case of Duffer, you’ve got four founders, and everyone has their own story to tell. Contradictions are inevitable. Barrie Sharpe was one of the minds behind Duffer of St George and he’s also the rare groove originator alongside Lascelle Gordon. Continue reading

THE UNKLE ERA

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There’s lots of nostalgia for Mo’ Wax at the moment, now that most people have let some bygones be bygones (a superb unpublished article I read that was written a decade or so ago was significantly more negative). It led to some excellent celebratory moments last year, and I’m glad that Mo’ Wax Please have reupped a student documentary entitled The Man From Unkle from 2005, because I was convinced I imagined it after it was on YouTube a few years back. It’s not perfect: it has a spectacularly hungover James Lavelle interview, teases Will Bankhead and Ben Drury interviews that never happen, has a typically earnest student film voiceover (I’ve recorded a couple in my lifetime) and showcases some terrible Futura knockoff motion graphics that look like a pisshead Yoda. But there’s loads of good stuff during the 11 minute duration — Swifty being brutally honest is great and there’s a few trips to stores like Brighton’s Triage, DPMHI in its heyday, Foot Patrol in its old location with Wes at the counter (I miss sitting in the store to mutually moan and watch him terrorising idiots) and Offspring, before catching up with Craig Ford in the pub rocking a full zip BAPE hoody back when Hong Kong kids would sell their spleen for some red camo. A lot has changed, but plenty has stayed the same. I never expected to see any of the brands I was jocking back then putting out a PUMA Disc though. Things seem — somewhat paradoxically — friendlier, yet more full of hate than they did 10 years ago.

SHOEBUSINESS

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This blog seems to have become a place to loosely collate the variety of Nike one-offs made for showbiz purposes. Rod, Elton, Zappa, Devo, Jefferson Starship and the mysterious one that might have been made for Bob Marley have been discussed. So have the Friends, Home Improvement and Seinfeld crew editions. There’s still things that elude me — did Mike Love ever wear the Aloha? I heard he did, but couldn’t find imagery of them on his feet. I want to see the mysterious animal print Converse hi-top SMUs created for Dimebag Darrell too. It never ends. The appearance of an Eddie Van Halen one-off in an 8.5 on eBay the other week has got me assuming that there’s hundreds more oddities out there. It’s a bland looking shoe that’s barely even semi good-looking (to paraphrase Diamond Dave), but after Eddie tried to sue Nike for the SB tribute to his guitar a few years back, it probably isn’t going to get a reissue. These were a BIN at the $450 mark, but they went unsold.

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CONCRETE

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Salutes to Charlie Morgan for putting me onto Jenkem’s post that highlighted the YouTube appearance of Concrete Jungle — a lost documentary on the link between hip-hop and skating. I’m sure I saw this on IMDB a couple of years ago and had a fruitless Google hunt film assuming that it would appear officially one day (I’m still holding out for the Harry Jumonji documentary too). But suddenly it’s online. Concrete Jungle feels like a more commercial companion piece to Deathbowl To Downtown, and where Deathbowl had Chloë Sevigny on narration duties, this one has her Kids buddy Rosario Dawson talking the viewer through proceedings.

Directed by SHUT and Zoo York co-founder Eli Morgan Gesner, and executive produced by QDIII (Quincy Jones’ son), it’s part of the lineage of straight-to-DVD releases that began with Tupac documentaries, the compelling Beef series and some genuinely insightful work like The Freshest Kids, Infamy and the Christian Hosoi bio, Rising Son. Sadly, QD3 Entertainment seemed to end in 2011, leaving Concrete Jungle in limbo. Beyond the unnecessary motion graphics and Gangland style anonymous hip-hop beats, there’s loads of good stuff in it — I would argue that more New Deal and Underworld Element talk (seeing as a mohawked Andy Howell is in it), some Menace, extra Chocolate, and Mike Carroll in conversation (who really joined the dots for me in Virtual Reality) over a little too much talk of the Muska Beatz album would have been a better move. But here’s the thing about critiquing a documentary like this — keeping everybody happy would be nigh-on impossible, and getting a dream roster of talking heads to sit and break it down would be a hellish ordeal of timings and shifting equipment from state to state. Plus the thing is supposed to appeal to the person who doesn’t know who Sal Barbier or the Fu-Schnickens are anyway.

Concrete Jungle really finds its form (and to judge a documentary’s pacing based on a rough cut would be unfair) as it approaches the mid-way point, when the early Zoo York footage appears and there’s some good information on the Tunnel’s legendary half-pipe. It’s a testament to the speed that things have evolved (see Wiz Khalifa’s recent ownage at the hands of Supreme LA’s staff) and the rise of Odd Future, Yelawolf (who can actually skate) and co, plus Weezy’s admirable but faintly doomed determination to be respected as a skater, that this documentary seems deeply dated in many ways — a good thing, because skateboarding is so multiracial and rooted in rap right now that, after just 8 years since filming wrapped on this project, its seems weird that it would be seen as anything different. In a world where Rick Ross and DJ Khaled might make a Vine appearance teetering on a skateboard in a You’ve Been Framed style tipsy dad on a Variflex one Christmas afternoon wave, things definitely done changed.

On the documentary subject, The Decline of Western Civilisation has been discussed here a lot — Wayne’s World director Penelope Spheeris’ trilogy is pretty much perfect, and part three is a perfect companion to Martin Bell and Mary Ellen Mark’s Streetwise (which I urge you to watch — especially after Mary Ellen Mark’s recent passing). Different generations of Los Angeles musicians and hard-living kids make it a set of films that are amusing and disturbing in near-equal qualities. For nigh-on 15 years, thedeclineofwesterncivilization.com has been promising a DVD release. I gave up hope, just as I abandoned the idea of Dr Jives’ webshop opening after four years of a holding page. But at the end of the month we get to watch Darby Crash and a tarantula, Black Flag before they became their own tribute band, Claude Bessy ranting, Chris Holmes from W.A.S.P. disappointing his mum while floating in a swimming pool, plus this absolute bellend, in Blu-ray quality. Part III (from 1998) is a rawer affair that’s been tough to track down, but Shout! Factory and Second Sight are putting it out as a boxset. When BBC2 showed the second film in late 1989 as part of Heavy Metal Heaven, hosted by Elvira (which also included Guns ’n’ Roses Live at the Ritz, a lost Zeppelin show and a show about thrash metal), it changed my life for the better. The prospect of bonus footage alone makes my hands shake enough to spill orange juice like Ozzy.

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BANTER

My friend Steve Bryden is one of the folks who helped give me my “career” 11 years ago, and he and Ted’s Know Dibi Dibi show is one of my favourites from Know Wave’s UK division. Because they were strapped for guests, they let me appear and talk rap and shoes — in fact, there’s plenty of alienating trainer talk — with lots of points that just trail off in caffeinated streams of consciousness. There’s also loads of Lil Wayne, plus a Bone Thugs and Phil Collins finale. Shouts to Professor Bryden for the invite.

If you’re looking for inspiration, Douglas Gunn and Roy Luckett’s first Vintage Showroom book is a goldmine — all the joys of a combined Lightning, Free & Easy and Mono on a good month, but with the bonus of informative texts in English. This London institution has a spectacular archive, and one volume wasn’t enough, so Vintage Menswear 2 releases this November. Hopefully this will be another trove of eccentric but brilliantly functional attire that’s rarely spotlighted. I’m intrigued by the early 2016 release of a book by Mark McNairy entitled F____ Ivy and Everything Else on the Harper Design imprint too, but I need to see more information on that one.

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PIRACY

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If you’re in London with an hour to spare between now and July 19th, you need to go and check out the Shout Out! UK Pirate Radio in the 1980s exhibition at the ICA. It’s a compact collection of artifacts, documents and imagery that charts the pre-legal days of Kiss in its five years as a pirate station, as well as several other seminal DIY broadcasters that never went straight. This was the second London exhibition with a snapshot of Groove Records in just over a month (the great little gathering of London record shop history that popped up on the rapidly perishing Berwick Street was the other one), and from a style perspective there’s nuggets there in the browsable (as in aper format and not some iPad simulation) fanzines with their 1989 ads for the seminal Soul II Soul store in Camden. This is isn’t just a showcase of radio culture — given the connection between music and the streets, its was an important chapter in helping define what wear too. Don’t let my abysmal iPhone photos put you off paying it a visit.

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My friends at 032c have moved into creating their own garments. If you grew up reading i-D and The Face, you’ll remember the occasional apparel offerings towards the back of the magazine. The ever-thorough 032c’s clothing brand starts with a short-sleeve sweatshirt (a challenging format that reminds me of the Jordan VII-era thick-tees that gave you heat stroke) with a long, slim unisex cut. Joerg and the squad aren’t basic enough to set things off with a print tee, and the Portuguese-made Stealth Varsity Logo Sweatshirt’s flock tonal lettering and anti-pill polyfibre and cotton construction is some wilfully contradictory summer wear. It’s in their online store right now and they’re promising further projects over the coming months.

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SCHOOLED

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There’s a lot of people whose worlds peaked when Bizarre Love Triangle released. They’ll talk of nothing but defunct Manchester nightclubs and daydream about Hooky’s low slung bass. They’ll sail of a wave of revisionist history that crashes in their heroes fake DJing at a student union, and get angry at any whippersnapper who dares to comment on their teen idols, positively or negatively. Dancefloor veterans telling you, “You weren’t there maaaaan!” But beyond the angry old men, most of the music is still fantastic, and the art direction on those Factory releases is magnificent. Peter Saville is name checked repeatedly with good reason — not only is his work memorable from a graphic standpoint, but there’s a thought process at word that makes him an interesting interview subject. Saville spoke with Lou Stoppard at SHOWStudio recently, and they’ve upped a 99 minute uncut version of the conversation. Every second of Power, Corruption & Lies or Closer is still essential, and much of what Saville has got to say has something to give to a new generation — his pro-research sentiment about the epiphany of realising the amount he never knew (mentioned around the 45 minute mark), and the subsequent bliss of stumbling upon the vastness of context is a call to learn, rather than the actions of a time-frozen curmudgeon. Everyone with a new brand making homages of homages who wants to be around in 24 months might benefit from listening — even if it’s just for 12 minutes.



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This Canadian documentary from 1993 has just appeared on YouTube via Barnaby Marshall. 10-20: Berlin provides some rare footage of the first Cycle Messenger World Championships that took place in Germany. William Gibson makes an appearance, on the back of his novel Virtual Light being based around a courier in a post-earthquake SF, and there’s also a brief chat with Futura 2000 (who was once a messenger himself). Despite the early 1990s Real World style presentation, there’s some superb soundbites in it.